Hero in a monocle.
This week, my mind is on a great comic hero. Forget comic books. Bertie Wooster’s starring role in PG Wodehouse’s masterpiece The Code of the Woosters involves no radioactive spiders, though there are some lovelorn newts. But Bertie’s adventures combine some of the greatest comic prose we have with the perfect English response to fascism: helpless laughter.
For those who like to be reassured that Wodehouse is worth thinking about, see the classic First Things essay, “God and Bertie Wooster”.
The best answer to Friedrich Nietzsche we’ve managed yet to come up with is the prose of P. G. Wodehouse.
Bertie is in my thoughts because I now own a copy of the Saturday Evening Post from July 1938, which contains episode two from the original serialisation. Which makes me wonder something else. What happened to the popular audience for magazines that published non-highbrow, world-class literature?
Douglas Murray’s account of the “intellectual dark web” is an excellent overview of several courageous, thoughtful and unconventional voices who don’t get much mainstream airtime.
…the entire political axis on which traditional media still operates is shown on the intellectual dark web to be moribund.
But as Murray points out, it’s about more than coverage. Today’s broadcast media have become poor venues for intelligent debate. There is a kind of smart, open discussion which now exists almost exclusively online.
I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
Never read the book of the week.
…there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.
I used to pride myself on writing long and convoluted sentences. Now I try to write simply. The position of Jane Austen in the chart below is one reason why. (Lots more good charts at the link.) That said, there is a cost: simple words only get respect when they have something worthwhile to say. I have decided to treat this cost as a useful incentive. If you want to try it, Readable.io is a useful free tool.
The latest single from England’s great folk-poet, Frank Turner.
That’s all the words I have for now.
So before you go out searching/ Don't decide what you will find/ Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind…